As sleep fanatics and the creators of one of the world’s most beloved mattresses, we’re regularly asked for advice on all things sleep-related. One of questions we’re asked most regularly is “what’s the best sleeping position?” (or a similarly-worded query such as "what's the healthiest sleeping position" or "which side is better to sleep on?) Is the foetal position the fast-track to a good night? Or is sleeping on your back the best way to sleep the night through? What about the ‘starfish’, ‘free-faller’ or the ‘soldier’?
Well, the answer is simply whichever position you feel comfortable enough to fall asleep in is the best sleeping position for you. Sleeping positions are something that come naturally, and the idea of ‘trying’ to sleep in a position that doesn’t feel right is a sure way to delay the onset of sleep.
It’s true that in some cases certain sleeping positions aren’t recommended, for various reasons. Being pregnant, suffering from sleep apnoea (OSA), and having other specific conditions or injuries are all scenarios where particular sleeping positions wouldn’t be recommended (or even possible). Let’s take a look at those in more detail;
Pregnancy – The obvious physical changes that occur throughout pregnancy render any sleeping position where you lie on your front impossible, but certain other positions aren’t recommended. Lying on your back with the added weight of a growing baby can cause lower back strain – something which you’ll get enough of during the day – while sleeping on your right side can create various circulation problems, particularly related to the liver. So during pregnancy it’s said that sleeping on your left side is best.
Sleep Apnoea (OSA) – This often-overlooked condition involves the periodic closing of the airway, resulting in breathing pauses that can sometimes last up to thirty seconds at a time. In severe cases these apnoeas can happen hundreds of times a night during sleep, dramatically harming sleep quality and overall health. Back sleeping is not recommended for OSA sufferers, as the tissue surrounding the neck and throat can create pressure around the airway and exacerbate the problem.
Conditions or Injuries – There are numerous conditions and injuries that rule out particular sleeping positions, either through causing additional discomfort or being physically impossible. Perhaps the most common example of these would be back pain, which can rule out most back sleeping positions.
Beyond those specific situations though, you’re free to find whatever position feels right and go with it. Which means there’s no such thing as the ‘best’ sleeping position, and if you’re sleeping well then guess what – you’ve already found the position that works for you. If you’re not sleeping well, its’s unlikely to be because of your sleeping position.
You’re really asking a different question…
Since sleeping positions are naturally-occurring you inherently already know the one that works for you and, by deduction, the ones that don’t. If you’re wondering about sleeping positions then it’s quite likely you’re really asking a far wider, more complex question altogether; How do I sleep better?
Good sleep is the result of many different factors coming together, and because so many disparate elements contribute to your sleep quality it can sometimes be tricky to single out what’s causing a problem. It could be a simple, easily solved issue or it could be a combination of things that require a longer term approach. Again, looking beyond specific medical conditions, those factors can be neatly summed up in the following topics;
Bedroom Environment – The body is incredibly sensitive to its surroundings, especially when it comes to sleeping, so it’s vitally important than your bedroom is correctly set up to encourage good sleep. Think about light sources, colour schemes, layout, temperature, unnecessary distractions (TV, laptop, iPad anyone?) and noise levels. It just takes one of these factors to be out of sync to decimate your sleep quality.
Food and Drink – What you eat and drink (and when you eat and drink it) are crucial to the body’s energy levels and, by association, sleep quality. There are a whole host of well-known foods and drinks that aren’t compatible to sleep thanks to the way that they create energy, and in contrast there are some foods and drinks that promote relaxation which is perfect for good sleep.
Exercise and Lifestyle - Closely linked to dietary habits, exercise and lifestyle are important factors in achieving regular good sleep. The production and expenditure of energy throughout the course of the day determines, among other things, how prepared you’ll be for good sleep when it comes to bedtime. Something as simple as a short walk while being exposed to sunlight can be beneficial for sleep.
Mattress – Last but absolutely not least, your mattress is something that should be an obvious factor in determining sleep quality, but it is often overlooked well beyond the point that it is causing a problem. All mattresses have a useable lifespan and it’s towards the end of that time when performance begins to deteriorate and your sleep will suffer. With regular poor quality sleep your overall health and wellbeing is jeopardised, so the importance of knowing when to change your mattress really can’t be overstated.